Downton Abbey Creator Weighs in on the Dan Stevens Thing

Though it's now several months later, the exit of popular leading man Dan Stevens still has Downton Abbey fans reeling the world over. Even Downton creator Julian Fellowes doesn’t seem to be doing a lot better, since even he doesn’t seem too thrilled by the way that certain events at the end of Series 3 shook out.  

In a new interview with UK paper The Express, Fellowes contends that he did everything he could to get keep Stevens on the show, but, alas, it was just not to be. “I had no choice,” Fellowes said. Dan would not stay – he was determined to go. Everyone liked him and thought he was fantastic.”

“I tried to persuade him to come back just for one episode of the next series so we could give Matthew and Mary a happy ending,” Fellowes explained. “But he wanted to go off to America and now I believe he has a three-movie deal. He’s doing very well!

This interview isn’t the first hint that Stevens was quite keen to bid farewell to the Crawleys. “It's nice that people care, I suppose, about the show, but yeah, you know ... I had to do what I had to do," Stevens said in March regarding his Downton departure. And, yes, his decision to leave is understandable, and completely within the bounds of his contract, but it’s just one of those situations that leaves everyone involved feeling sad and unhappy. (Bit of advice for Mr. Fellowes is that it might do everyone some good to stop talking about it for a while; but, then, one expects he gets asked about it in every interview he does.)

Since Downton ended, Stevens has been doing some theater and working on several films, including A Walk Among the Tombstones with Liam Neeson, The Fifth Estate with Sherlock’s Benedict Cumberbatch and swoony period romance Summer in February with Dominic Cooper.

While it seems a bit odd for Fellowes to blame Stevens so openly for what transpired at the end of last season, his comments are very interesting ones. Considering that Stevens’ co-star Michelle Dockery, who plays Matthew’s wife Mary, had already renewed her contract for next season, it’s hard to imagine what Fellowes’ idea of a “happy ending” for the drama’s signature couple would have looked like. 

Would Matthew have gone to handle some business in America? Been stuck in a coma? Forever happened to be outside “tending the estate” when people asked about him? Regenerated like the Doctor? Or would Mary have gone off somewhere with her husband and only shown up at Downton once an episode on visits from Indeterminate New Location? It seems unlikely that the powers that be would have written Dockery off the show completely, so any “happy ending” would have likely been short-lived (and possibly very awkward). But it’s an interesting thing to think about at any rate.

How would you have written out Matthew?